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The CrossGen Report
reviews by Charlie Wentling

The First #23
writer: Barbara Kesel
artists: Andrea Di Vito and Brad Vancata

The continuing flashback to Seahn's childhood finally comes to an end. Why did Barbara Kesel choose to stretch this story out for so long, without including any twists or surprises? The outcome of Trenin's hunt was known from the beginning, and seeing it acted out in such a straightforward manner doesn't add anything to any of the characters. The only impact it has on present day events is that Seahn is forced to regain his memory of what happened.

The other storyline concerns Pyrem's rescue attempt of Ingra. Pyrem faces off against the spider-like Ervulsh. The outcome of this conflict is not in much doubt either, since Pyrem brings along two of the seven weapons of Altwaal to help him. Even without such a large advantage, Pyrem would probably come out on top.

What happens next to all of the characters should be of more interest than what is happening now.


Mystic #28
writer: Tony Bedard
artists: Fabrizio Fiorentino and Matt Ryan

Tony Bedard takes a risk with this issue, and it pays off wonderfully. Shifting the tone further than ever towards humor, he breaks the fourth wall by having one character aware that he is in a comic book. It reminds me in some ways of John Byrne's run on She-Hulk, and uses some of the same themes in common with Grant Morrison.

Giselle continues her tour of the different guilds in an effort to win back the Guild spirits, coming this time to the Astral lands. The central message of the Astral teachings is to open your mind to new things. The most bizarre new thing that Giselle encounters is the stereotypical comic book fanboy who wanders through the issue deleting anything he doesn't like and commenting on all the clichés that he sees.

It's a bold move to so openly lampoon your audience, but Bedard does it with such style and finesse that it is impossible not to like. At the same time, the story does maintain its own internal consistency fairly well, even with reality being twisted to its breaking point. This issue is one of the high points of the series to date.


Negation #10
writer: Tony Bedard
artists: Paul Pelletier and Dave Meikis

The cover of Negation #10 is striking: a baby in peril surrounded by dozens of sharp blades. The cover is not symbolic of some vague threat, but an actual image from the story. Last month Charon came into the possession of baby Memi, and was able to see that the child is not what she appeared to be. Now Charon is running all manner of lethal tests on the infant to discover her "terminal threshold."

Amazingly, all of the tests done on the child are played for humor! And it works beautifully. The humanity and warmth that Charon shows at the end of the gauntlet are unexpected and yet perfectly in character.

Kaine and his companions try to regroup after the events of the last few issues. Zaida tells her own and Memi's story to the others, but there are doubts that what she says is true, and Kaine clearly lies to protect her. The group decides to try to rescue the child by making use of Mercer Drake's as of yet unexplained powers.

Paul Pelletier is in top form, and this issue shows off his talents well with a dozen full page images that serve the story wonderfully. Not only is this the best issue of the week, but probably the best of the year.


Sigil #28
writer: Chuck Dixon
artists: Andy Smith and Brad Vancata

In contrast, Sigil #28 is not one of the high points in this series. Sigil doesn't have many high points.

This is another of those issues where nothing significant changes over the course of the 22 pages. The entire issue consists of Sam and Khyradon trying to kill each other. The ending is meant to leave the reader hanging, but there is no suspense at all. By making Sam as powerful as he is, Dixon is making it harder to set up compelling situations and enemies.

None of the supporting characters appear at all, despite the background page inside the front cover that goes on at length about everyone. These recap pages need to be better tailored to the issue in question. Not much background information is needed to understand this issue, since nothing much happens.

The art is also below CrossGen's normal high standards. Maybe there were deadline problems, because Smith and Vancata normally do much better work than this. There are too many large panels that don't add anything, and the issue doesn't flow as well as normal. Hopefully things will turn around next month.


Sojourn #15
writer: Ron Marz
artists: Greg Land and Jay Leisten

Arwyn and Gareth continue their quest for the second fragment of Ayden's arrow. The two of them have run across some members of the Ankharan resistance, who are struggling against Mordath for their freedom. Eventually Arwyn is faced with a choice, to either continue searching for the fragment or to stop and help the Ankharan resistance. Ron Marz continues to give the characters decisions that are not simple black and white choices.

Rahm, the Dawn Warrior, is introduced. In some ways a clichéd character with a destiny to fulfill, Rahm becomes more than that. Arwyn also shows her first real growth as a character as she finally starts to come to terms with the death of her family. There are also some romantic sparks between Arwyn and Gareth. If anything happens with this, it should be done very slowly.

Greg Land's art gets even better if that is possible. The art is nothing short of beautiful on every page.


Way of the Rat #5
writer: Chuck Dixon
artists: Rod Whigham and Drew Geraci

Events of the first four issues have been building up to the inevitable confrontation between Boon and Bhuto Khan. This fifth issue allows Chuck Dixon to finish maneuvering everyone into their proper places for the big showdown next month. The hordes outside of Zhumar continue their assault even though they have run out of ammunition for their devastating cannon, and will soon be out of food. Inside Zhumar, members of the thieves' guild and Judge X'ain's men both pursue Boon.

Not much character development occurs with all of the nonstop action. The story feels a little bit padded, but not enough to prevent you from enjoying it. Regular artist Jeff Johnson takes a month off, and the fill-in work by Rod Whigham is good and a good match for Johnson's style.



Charlie Wentling

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